Detailed Molecular Dynamics Simulations of a Model NaPSS in Water

JMY Carrillo and AV Dobrynin, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 114, 9391-9399 (2010).

DOI: 10.1021/jp101978k

Hydrophobic polyelectrolytes are known to form necklace-like structures of dense beads connected by strings of monomers. This structure appears as a result of optimization of the electrostatic and short-range interactions. To elucidate the effect of counterion condensation and solvent on polyelectrolyte conformations, we performed two sets of molecular dynamics simulations of modelpoly(styrene)-co-styrene sodium sulfonate (NaPSS) chains with the degree of polymerization N = 16-64 and fraction of charged monomers f = 0.25-1 in aqueous solutions: (1) water molecules were considered explicitly using the TIP3P-PME model and (2) water molecules were modeled as a dielectric continuum with the dielectric constant 77.73. Our simulations showed that with increasing fraction of sulfonated groups f a polystyrene sulfonate chain adopts an elongated conformation. There is a transition between collapsed and elongated states which is manifested in the change of the scaling dependence of the chain size on the degree of polymerization. The effect of the water ion interactions on counterion condensation was analyzed by comparing the radial distribution functions between the sulfonated groups and counterions for chains with different f values. In the case of the collapsed NaPSS chains, it was found that ionized groups are located at the globular surface.

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